|Title||:||The Defence (Twentieth Century Classics S.)|
|Publisher||:||Oxford Paperbacks Auflage New edition 1 Oktober 1986|
|Number of Pages||:||473 Pages|
|File Size||:||679 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Defence (Twentieth Century Classics S.) Reviews
Vladimir Nabokov presumably chose the English title for this novel because it describes an elaborate chess strategy, one which midway through the book fails its creator in tournament play, and in the end in the game of self-preservation. But it might just as well have been chosen to describe the central character's use of chess itself as a strategic defense against life. Luzhin, from childhood on, is never able to make a connection between himself and the world. His relationship to his parents' life in pre-revolutionary Russia is as abstract as that of an austistic genius' attachment to the complex theory of a computer game. Leaving Russia, such an emotional and nostalgic experience for Nabokov himself, disrupts Luzhin's psyche not a whit, for he has never invested any concrete part of himself in its memory. Indeed, Luzhin is so remote that the reader will often wonder what a concrete part of himself might look like in the first place. Discovering chess is the central event of his life, and losing it his central tragedy. There are some astonishing characters here: Luzhin's wife, who cannot hold onto her elusive husband any more than she might catch an ocean wave in her outstretched arms; his wife's parents, who have made Russia into a caricature of itself, trapped in a bowl of beet soup and served up to the strains of balalaikas; the sinister Valentinov, the real grandmaster of Luzhin's psyche, who moves his pawn on an immense emotional chessboard, the distant reaches of which even the novel itself would not seem to contain. "The Defense" is an exciting tour de force. It will stretch any reader's imagination into utterly uncharted territory. Nabokov's language is, as always, crisp and clear as a blue December morning. His worlds, spinning through the literary cosmos, are like nothing glimpsed through any telescope before.
It would only seem natural that given the interest Nabokov had with games and puzzles that he would write a story about chess. Originally written in Russian and published in 1930, Nabokov's third novel deals with paranoid obsession and how the game of chess becomes hopelessly confused with reality.The novel is a "biography" of Luzhin, an alienated and morose child who, in an attempt to deal with his daily life, turns to chess. He soon becomes a child prodigy and rises to rank of grand master; however, he is emotionally devastated when he is unable to complete a championship match as his elaborately contrived defense fails him. The aftermath of his breakdown is a confused period of time in which therapy, the devotion of his new wife, and the mundane combinations of his everyday life becomes confused with the combination of moves in a chess match. His only defense against this perceived attack is to stop the clock on the game: to commit suicide, or as Nabokov sardonically puts it, "sui-mate."Although Luzhin is one of Nabokov's most sympathethic characters, he is also one of the most boring. After the pivotal chess match, the novel tends to drag to its anti-climatic conclusion, and if it was not for the author's masterful prose (Nabokov could describe a proctology examination and make it sublime) I would have been hard pressed to finish the novel.
It is unfair but perhaps inevitable that a writer's minor works should forever labour in the shadows of their more successful siblings. Had The Defense been Nabokov's only novel, I believe Nabokov would have been greatly respected, if not celebrated, for his achievement. As it is, we must now see this story as an imperfect expression of the astonishing vision that only found true realisation in Lolita, Pale Fire and Pnin. In those works Nabokov perfected the art of seeing man as simultaneously comic and tragic - sublime and menacing. The Defense, which tells the story of a Russian Grand Master unable truly to understand anything other than the game of chess, provides an early inkling of this vision, but does not bring it wholly to life. Luzhin, our hero, whilst at times effectively comic and at others compellingly tragic, is too often a remote, incomprehensible figure - almost a freak - to sustain the reader's ongoing interest. Indeed there is something cold and controlled about the entire book; it recalls a classical tragedy in its remorseless, inevitable design. What is lacking is a sense of the unpredictable and the giddy - to name just two qualities that Nabokov, in his later American novels, became unrivalled at capturing. Nowadays, I suppose, only those with a genuine passion for Nabokov will find the book an ultimately satisfying read.
If the prospective readers allow themselves to open up to this novel, it can smudge the difference between fiction and reality for them. The narrative is so masterful, the flow of diction is so natural that one looses the sence of reading the novel and becomes a part of it. The elusive psychological dysfunctions of the protagonist are described exceptionally well; the true strength of Nabokov -- his diction -- shines brilliantly in this novel. The focus of the novel is phenomenal; Nabokov's uniquely passionate, ultrasensuous prose is like fresh ocean air -- one cannot get enough of it. Nabokov can easily become a necessity in one's life, if one is not careful.
This was an excellent example of an existentialist novel. The imagery is great and the prose is typical Nabokov. This novel is different in its styling becuse it is characterized by little dialogue. Good read